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Explained: The Best Way to Rinse and Dry a Car

Some people swear by using a leaf blower, some prefer towels…so what is the best way to rinse and dry a vehicle?

Spoiler alert: the ‘best’ way to dry a car…depends on your own situation. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s start with the rinse process, which most people agree on.

How to rinse a vehicle after applying soap

You should always work in sections when rinsing a vehicle, and in the shade if possible. Make sure you rinse off suds quickly before the sun has a chance to dry them.

Check out my post on car soap 101 for beginners if you’re a little fuzzy on soaps vs foam. I break everything down so you know what to use.

Have water spots? Rinse with purified water

To prevent hard water spots from forming during the rinse process, one solution is to use what’s called a water deionizer.  These devices filter tap water from the hose, and great to have if you live in an area with hard water.

What is the best way to dry a vehicle?

The best way to dry a vehicle can vary based on variables like speed, safety, and risk of contamination.

A lot of mobile detailers prefer air, hobbyists like myself prefer a damp microfiber towel used with a spray-on drying aid. Both methods are safe when done correctly. Blowers may hold a slight edge safety-wise…but the difference is negligible since you will be using a towel or applicator at some point.

I don’t love hauling around cords, which is why I typically stick to towels.

Why use a blower to dry a car?

Some high-volume mobile detailers use blowers (even leaf blowers) to dry vehicles because they can remove water beads in a matter of seconds. Remove the water beads, maybe apply a spray-on product…and move on. Done.

A device like the classic Master Blaster is a popular high-powered dryer some pro detailers use because it can blow warm air and can dry a vehicle pretty quickly.

Handheld blowers like the one below by Adam’s is ideal if you just want something to blow out crevices; any blower used should be used carefully not to scratch paint.

Adam’s Mini Air Cannon

What I like

Uses warm air, affordable

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Caution!

Avoid using large blowers on lower body panels if the ground is dusty…you’re simply adding more dust and dirt particles back to the vehicle. 

Another drying trick is to blow compressed air in crevices a towel can’t get to. Perfect for grills, door jambs, and other hard-to-dry areas.

Drying a vehicle with a microfiber towel

If best = safest, one could argue a dry towel isn’t the safest way to dry a vehicle, which is true. Without lubrication, you still risk adding micro scratches with even the softest towel out there. You could do a terrific job washing…but there will always be a microscopic trace of dirt that you don’t want a dry towel contacting.

If using a towel, you always want to absorb water, while using lubrication in order to prevent scratches. 

Tips for safely using a microfiber towel for vehicle drying

  1. Wet the microfiber towel and wring out. This will make it more absorbent
  2. Apply a lubricating detailing spray. The purpose will be to guide the microfiber towel safely across the water beads
  3. Never apply pressure to avoid scratching.
  4. Rinse the towel out or use more than one if needed

You can either use a large drying towel, or use a couple of smaller microfiber towels. I usually stick with larger drying towels for large panels, and glass towels or smaller microfiber towels for crevices…but it’s totally up to you.

Quick tip!

Use waffle weave towels to dry glass and mirrors. They tend to streak less, and don’t leave behind lint. Cheap higher-pile microfiber towels can leave behind lint as they age.

Chamois…not the best choice if you value safety over speed

I used to use a chamois back in the day (or shammy as I like to say :)); they were quite popular around 2010 when I saw them in almost every infomercial.

However, chamois tend to absorb water without lifting those small microparticles from the paint. Since you’re sliding around water as you absorb it, shammies can leave micro-scratches on a vehicle pretty easily.

These things aren’t designed to use with lubrication…so I stay away from them. If it’s an older vehicle and you swear by using them..go for it. Everything is a matter of preference.

I’ve also never been able to keep a shammy clean…they get smudgy rather easily. But maybe that’s just me.

If you want a simple breakdown of how to wash your vehicle to see the best results, be sure to check out my post on what order you should wash your car. It does matter to an extent!

Hope it helps!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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